Asean seeks to maintain peace and stability in South China Sea

HIS Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, yesterday morning joined foreign ministers of the Asean Regional Forum in a courtesy call on President U Thein Sein of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar at the Presidential Palace, Nay Pyi Taw.

HRH also attended the 4th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the Myanmar International Convention Centre – 1, Nay Pyi Taw. HRH in the afternoon attended the 21st Asean Regional Forum and the launching ceremony of the logo of the Asean Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercises (ARF DiREx 2015).

HRH held a bilateral meeting with Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Papua New Guniea.

In a joint communiqué, Asean Foreign Ministers expressed serious concern over recent developments which had increased tensions in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, maritime security as well as freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea, Bernama reported.

They urged all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that would complicate the situation and undermine peace, stability and security in the South China Sea and to settle disputes through peaceful means, without resorting to threat or use of force, including friendly dialogue, consultations and negotiations, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

They took note of the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to be submitted to the Asean-China Post-Ministerial Conference, and tasked officials to work with China to finalise the objective and structure and elaborate the substance of the Code Of Conduct, including concrete elements which would promote trust and confidence, prevent and manage incidents should they occur.

They also tasked officials to work on a series of early-harvest measures.

A senior US official said Asean countries’ concern over China’s maritime actions was at an “all-time high” based on private conversations, although their public statements were more guarded to avoid antagonising China, Reuters reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was satisfied with the communique.

“I think the language goes far enough,” Kerry told reporters. “I think we made the points that we came to make.

“We were not seeking to pass something, we were trying to put something on the table that people could embrace.”

With regards to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Donetsk, Ukraine, the joint communiqué stated more needs to be done to ensure that all remains from the site are gathered and repatriated as soon as possible and in a dignified manner.

The foreign ministers also further demanded that those responsible for the heinous act be held to account and swiftly brought to justice.

They also expressed support for the peaceful efforts taken by all parties to resolve the situation in Ukraine.

Xinhua reported that Asean Foreign Ministers reiterated commitment to further strengthen Asean-China relationship by enhancing mutual trust and confidence and promoting cooperation in the political-security, economic, and social-cultural areas.

Asean looks forward to working closely with China to further strengthen the Asean-China strategic partnership, the communique said.

The foreign ministers reiterated the importance of effective utilisation of the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) for Asean and China to be able to achieve the targets of two-way trade volume of US$500 billion by 2015 and US$1 trillion by 2020, as well as two-way investment of US$150 billion in the next six years.

Regarding the cultural cooperation, the ministers are looking forward to future activities to promote people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in relevant fields as well as supporting the Asean-China Plan of Action on Culture Cooperation.

The foreign ministers noted with satisfaction the progress in the implementation of the 2011-2015 Plan of Action (POA) to implement the Joint Declaration on the Asean-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. - Borneo Bulletin (11 August 2014)